Fort Bragg, N.C. –
A new parachute system designed to deliver light supplies and heavy equipment to ground troops is at its half-way point in operational testing here by Tennessee Army Reserve parachute riggers.
The cargo parachute delivery system dubbed "G-16," can airdrop critical gear from altitudes much lower than ever before possible.
"Our Soldiers are the whole 'parachute rigger package,'" said Sgt. Susan Crossland, the NCO-in-charge of the group of 13 parachute riggers with the Nashville, Tennessee-based 861st Quartermaster Company.
The more technical name given the G-16 by the Army is the Advanced Low Velocity Airdrop System - Light/Heavy (ALVADS-L/H).
"Soldiers are expected to be proficient at all parts of the aerial delivery rigging experience to include packing the cargo parachute," said the 33-year-old Crossland from Indianapolis, Indiana, of her team's mission as a test unit working with the U.S. Army Operational Test Command's Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate (ABNSOTD).
One test unit Soldier said he is learning something new every day during the operational test.
"It's really cool that we are the only people who have touched this parachute in the Army -- ever -- until it gets put out into the rest of the Army, assuming it passes operational testing," said Spc. Dillan J. Halstead, 21, from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, who has three years, four months rigging experience.
"When we first started the test, the days were long, but now we're all pretty high-speed. So, being part of an operational test is a fantastic experience to add to my career as a whole," he added.
Another rigger with the 861st Quartermaster Company said he enjoys the challenges and new experiences of an operational test.
With three years and a just few days as a Soldier, Spc. A. J. Thomas, 21, also from Murfreesboro, said, "This is fun. I'm having a blast."
"Being part of an operational test is an eye-opening experience and I would definitely do it again and recommend it for others," he added, "Just for the simple fact that you're getting to work with something that has yet to hit the streets, you're a pioneer for the rest of the Army."
According to Wayne Lovely, a test officer with ABNSOTD, testing makes sure rigged loads using ALVADS-L/H are delivered to ground troops while remaining fully mission capable.
Program Managers, local commanders and Airborne entities across the Department of Defense depend on ABNSOTD for advice and validation of questions or procedures that pertain to anything Airborne, according to Mike Tracy, deputy test division chief.
"During the acquisition and testing process what you have to ask yourself is, 'What have you given the Soldier that they don't already have?'" said Tracy.
"If the Airborne and Special Operations Test Directorate didn't test it, we aren't going to jump or airdrop it," he added.
ALVADS-L/H is the largest test in execution at the ABNSOTD.
Other tests underway at ABNSOTD include an airdrop certification of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV), the chosen replacement vehicle for the Humvee. Highly-instrumented test drops by ABNSOTD will help test overall survivability of the vehicle in combat.
A lightweight, handheld laser target locator, used by dismounted Soldiers to perform call for fire procedures is also under test by the ABNSOTD, rigging it inside a ruck sack while parachutists jump from an airplane in the sky. Called the Laser Target Locator Module II (LTLM II), jumpers test its target detection capabilities after jumping.
The U.S. Army Operational Test Command is based at West Fort Hood, Texas and its mission is about making sure that systems developed are effective in a Soldier's hands and suitable for the environments in which Soldiers train and fight. Test units and their Soldiers offer their feedback, which influences the future by offering input to improve upon existing and future systems that Soldiers will ultimately use to train and fight with.